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Deceased Honorary Fellows
Peter Lawrence died of a stroke on December 12, 1987 in Sydney, Australia. He had retired a year ago and was working on a long-planned book on the nature of religion.
A native of Lancashire, England, Lawrence studied classics at Cambridge, and after war-time service in naval intelligence, he returned to study anthropology under Meyer Fortes. He earned his Ph.D. for research among the Garia of Papua New Guinea in 1949-50, and he visited Garialand each year since 1971. The Garia (1984), said Roy Wagner, was the work of a determined (against the Radcliffe-Brownian orthodoxy), resourceful, and distinguished contributor to Melanesian ethnology.
Lawrence's professional career was spent in Australia, at A.N.U. (1948-57), Western Australia (1960-63), Queensland (Professor and Head, 1966-70), and Sydney (1963-65; Professor 1970-86). He was a frequent visitor to North America where he lectured widely and attended meetings of the ASAO, of which he was elected Honorary Fellow. He was a Visiting Professor at Queens (1969), Pittsburgh (1970), and Victoria (1975). Lawrence's principal theoretical interest was in the intellectual life of primitive peoples, and his Road Belong Cargo (1964), Gods, Ghosts, and Men in Melanesia (edited with M. Meggitt, 1965), and especially his Inaugural Lecture at Queensland, "Daughter of Time" (1967), did much to reestablish the intellectualist approach to magic and religion pioneered by Sir E.B. Tylor.
Lawrence wrote on religion, social structure, politics and law. He maintained his interests in classics and history, and these were expressed in his Don Juan in Melanesia, a delightful satiric attack on the ahistoric posture of British structural-functionalism in 64 stanzas. But much of his teaching emphasized the applied value of anthropology, in particular for colonial administrators committed to indigenous development. His first and perhaps enduring passion was teaching at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (beginning in 1957) where he created the anthropology curriculum. He had a major role, too, in the transformation of ASOPA into the International Training Institute (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs) which has contributed much in recent years to the education and careers of administrators from Third World countries.
Tom Harding, University of California, Santa Barbara (Winter 1988 Newsletter)